Attorney General James Announces $1 Million Grant For Albany To Implement New Strategic Housing Programs

Attorney General James Announces $1 Million Grant for
Albany to Implement New Strategic Housing Programs

Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement (“Cities RISE”)
Advances Neighborhood Revitalization and Helps City of Albany Address Housing Challenges

ALBANY – Attorney General Letitia James today announced a $1 million grant for the City of Albany as part of the Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement (“Cities RISE”) program. The program provides municipalities the funding to launch innovative programs related to housing and strategic code enforcement. Cities RISE aims to innovatively address and transform blighted, vacant, or poorly maintained problem properties through the use of housing and community data from various state agencies.

The City of Albany will use the grant to fund a program called the “Good Neighborhood School” to support education and meaningful engagement with landlords and tenants in collaboration with the court system. The City will also invest in legal help to target demonstrated bad actors and enforce levied fines, provide tenant and neighborhood advocate support to resolve housing issues and ensure safe homes for vulnerable populations, and more.

“The foreclosure crisis was a challenging setback for families in Albany and made it more difficult to find and maintain quality affordable housing,” said Attorney General James. “Cities RISE is a groundbreaking program that will provide a roadmap for other cities in New York and across the country that are struggling with aligning code enforcement policies that meet the needs of their communities. Using the funds secured from settlements with banks, my office will continue to work with municipalities to combat New York’s ongoing housing crisis.”

Launched in April 2017, Cities RISE advances the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s comprehensive strategy for helping New York families and communities rebuild from the housing crisis. In the first phase of the program, 16 municipalities received a two-year subscription to a data platform designed to integrate and analyze data such as code enforcement records, tax liens, and fire and police data to innovatively address and transform blighted, vacant, or poorly maintained problem properties.

Ten of the original 16 grantees were selected for phase two of the program, which began in November 2018. Phase two of the program provided cities with technical assistance to analyze city data as well as assisted the cities with community engagement to develop program ideas for their grant application. Over the last year, these municipalities have worked with Cities RISE program partners to improve their code enforcement strategies and develop new strategic programs. The cities received expert support from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and Tolemi, a social enterprise that created the BuildingBlocks platform used by all Cities RISE participants. Harvard and Tolemi helped municipalities leverage data and evidence in operational work and policy-making. Additionally, last May, the Mayors of the municipalities attended an Executive Education Program at Harvard. They also worked with Hester Street, an urban planning, design, and development nonprofit to develop and launch a comprehensive community engagement process.

In Phase three of the program, 10 cities, including the City of Albany, were able to apply for a grant of up to $1 million to implement innovative and strategic programs related to code enforcement.

“This revitalization initiative goes hand and hand with one of the primary goals of my administration, creating a city where every neighborhood works,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “We are eager to put the analysis, technical support, and training received during the first two phases of Cities RISE to work in transforming Albany neighborhoods. The programs that will be implemented as a result of Cities RISE will provide resources and education to improve landlord/tenant relationships, assist elderly home owners with estate planning in an effort to reduce the amount of vacant properties in the future, proactively remove blighted and unsafe properties, and create an opportunity for residents to become homeowners if they are willing to maintain vacant properties. I want to thank Attorney General James for spearheading this initiative that aims to not only make code enforcement more effective and efficient, but more equitable.”

Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise) a national community development intermediary that specializes in affordable housing, is overseeing the initiative.

“Enterprise is excited to support this final step in Cities RISE, the culmination of several years of hard work by the government and community leaders of participating municipalities to develop equitable, strategic code enforcement initiatives,” said Judi Kende, vice president and market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “Enterprise is proud to partner with Attorney General James to give communities across the state the unique opportunity to improve the lives of local residents.”

“We are excited to see these ten grantees leverage data through the BuildingBlocks platform to improve housing code compliance, facilitate cross-agency collaboration, and launch innovative neighborhood revitalization strategies,” said Andrew Kieve, CEO and Co-Founder of Tolemi

“Cities RISE demonstrates the power and potential of community-led problem solving,” said Nisha Baliga, Co-Executive Director of Hester Street. “Hester Street was thrilled to support all ten municipalities in engaging residents, neighborhood leaders and CBOs most impacted by code enforcement actions in the process of co-creating proactive and equitable code enforcement solutions. We’re excited about what this kind of participatory policy making can mean for the future of equitable code enforcement everywhere and commend the Attorney General’s office for supporting this community-driven process.”

“It has been a great honor for us to support mayors and their teams in making their governments more effective, efficient, and equitable through innovation,” said Professor Jorrit de Jong, faculty director of Ash Center’s Government Innovations Program. “The Cities RISE program has been a superb platform to help cities build the capabilities to tackle challenges around vacant, abandoned and distressed properties. We are grateful to New York Attorney General James for the opportunity to work with ten cities on making positive change in their communities.”